The Muslim Council of Britain held a conference this week entitled Terrorism and Extremism --
how should British Muslims respond?
And the response seems to be to call for the censorship of reports about the terrorism and criminalisation of criticism of the extremism.
Calls were made for the UK's newspaper censor, Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), to censor press stories critical of groups of people rather than the current remit to investigate press stories that are unfair to individuals.
The Muslim Council of Britain both called for that to change, amid what some claim is slanted press coverage of Islamic issues. The coincil had previously criticized media coverage of issues such as that of Muslim grooming gangs , in which
groups of men in areas such as Rotherham, Derby, Bristol and Oxfordshire were accused of raping thousands of children. Representatives of the MCB have said that linking the story to the Muslim faith was not fair.
Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said that there is currently no recourse under the press standards code when a particular group is attacked by the media:
There's been many examples in the media, where we've tried to go to the code but we've not been able to, he said. If there is a way that a representative group can launch a complaint on that issue, that would be valuable.
One of the most high-profile cases in which IPSO rejected a claim of discrimination came last spring, and involved a column in the Sun newspaper about the migration crisis. Controversial columnist Katie Hopkins suggested that Europe should use
gunboats to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and compared those fleeing their home countries to cockroaches. But IPSO rejected complaints over her column, because it did not refer to specific individuals.
The conference also discussed the restoration of blasphemy laws, abolished in 2008 after they had largely fallen into disuse by then, given that the last successful prosecution was in 1977.
On the topic Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya News that he would have no problem with blasphemy laws being reintroduced"
It should apply to all religions. If we have laws, they should apply to everybody. Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to them... but it must apply equally to everybody.
David Anderson QC spoke on the topic saying he would not object to a public debate over the issue, although had doubts over whether such laws should be reintroduced:
Personally I'm not sure whether I would welcome a blasphemy law, because I think we have to be free to make fun of each other. We even have to be free to offend each other, he said. [But] I would have no problem with the idea of a democratic
debate on whether there is room for some kind of blasphemy law.
Miqdaad Versi said:
Muslim communities need to be able to respond to accusations Muslims, or against the Prophet, in a more effective way. Whether there should be legislation is something that really is a more complicated question.
Comment: One religion's blasphemer is another religion's saint
Here's a spectacular illustration of the big problem with blasphemy laws: religions contradict, and therefore blaspheme, one
This Catholic web site
presents, and accurately translates into English, criticisms of Muhammad and Islam made by a priest who has been declared a saint. Notably, St john Bosco was a kindly and gentle old chap, deploring corporal punishment at a time when Dr Arnold of
Rugby firmly believed in a good flogging in front of the assembled house. He observed:
"It would take too long to tell you all the stories about this famous impostor (...) Mohamed's religion consists of a monstrous mixture of Judaism, Paganism and Christianity. Mohamed propagated his religion, not through miracles or
persuasive words, but through the force of arms. [It is] a religion that favors every sort of licentiousness and which, in a short time, allowed Mohamed to become the leader of a troop of brigands. Along with them he raided the countries of the
East and conquered the people, not by introducing the Truth, not by miracles or prophecy; but for one reason only: to raise his sword over the heads of the conquered shouting: believe or die".